In the beginning was the word, and the word was ‘Directed Panspermia’ – OK, we know that’s two words – but those two words are the concept at the heart of RJ Collins ambitious high concept sci-fi series Arks that mixes creation myth and interstellar space travel to create a story that is out of this world.
Publisher: Clicky Sprout Wife
Writer: R.J Collins, Dr Lucy Crompton, Holly Cameron and Shann Biglione (Editors)
Artist: R.J. Collins, Andrew Morris, James Daly, Neil Copland
Price: Issue #2 currently funding on Kickstarter
‘Directed Panspermia’ refers to the deliberate transport of micro-organisms between habitable astronomical worlds. In short, this means sending bacteria and stuff into space to start new worlds. And it is the core concept for Arks ambitious world building.
This opening instalment is essentially a creation story (hence us beginning the review with a bible verse!), and Collins juxtaposes this high-tech concept of microbiotic space travel with a Rabbinic version of the creation story, in which a third woman, Lilith, joins Adam and Eve in Eden. It’s an interesting parallel to the action on the page which sees an ‘Adam-like man’ attempting to hunt and gather for food in contrast with a space ship blasting off for earth and landing on a new planet. When he meets a naked woman in one of his traps, we begin to learn that this is his wife Lilith (coincidence or fore-shadowing?!) and he is Joe. The two have been sent here by some scientific jiggery pokery involving them being imprinted on a bacteria along with some rabbits, bugs and other things, to create a new civilisation and be pioneers in space travel and world building.
Writer artist Collins’ does a really interesting job of mixing creation myth and science fiction to create a really interesting and ambitious opening chapter. Sure, the science of it all is quite far fetched, but it is handled in such a way and with jargon rich dialogue that it all seems plausible in the end and it takes you along for the journey. (The credits list editing help from Dr Lucy Crompton, Holly Cameron and Shawn Biglione and you can tell this is a well thought out story and idea).
Contrasting the science heavy opening scenes with the biblical story gives it even more potency, and with it not having the happiest of endings then you know this is also setting things up for an interesting twist or two in this new garden of Eden. The story from Collins, is definitely aiming for an adult audience, both in terms of the content and the concept. With Arks they have created a world which doesn’t shy away from complex ideas and intense story telling the ideas begin to slot into place in the same way that the experiment seems to be evolving and developing in front of you.
The story is brought to life by some slick 3D graphic style imagery from Collins along with help from Andrew Norris, James Daly and Neil Copland. It’s got a real slickness to it, and although this style isn;t always our personal favourite as doesn’t always suit some of the more organic elements of the story (the figures always feel a little posed and the amount of computer generated nudity is a bit off putting at times), it has a really unique and accomplished style to it that goes well with the ambitious high concept story.
We keep referring to Arks as ‘ambitious’ and that is perhaps the best description for it. Like it’s subject it is aiming for the stars and no accepting second best. While certain parts of the story might not work exactly as we might personally want or expect, the end product is highly accomplished, engaging and one which we are fascinated to see evolve and develop over time.